All Foreign Ministers of the Nordic and Baltic countries (NB8) have come together this week on the Swedish island of Visby, to discuss their challenges, as well as the future. Also on the table were Syria and the Eastern Partnership. Interwoven with the busy agenda, however, Carl Bildt explained on his personal twitter account that there was still time to inaugurate the Lithuanian consulate in Visby. See what else the Foreign Ministers are saying…
The Ministers of the eight countries issued a joint statement, expressing their firm support for the objectives of the EU Eastern Partnership policy and acknowledging the important results achieved so far. The Ministers express full support to the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November. The initialing of the DCFTA will be possible provided that Ukraine demonstrates tangible progress in the three key areas set out by the EU Council Conclusions of December 2012.
The ministers expressed that they are also looking forward to the initialling of the Association Agreements with Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia at the Vilnius Summit on 28 and 29 November, as well as to their signatures when conditions are met already in 2014. As Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius explains:
“This year, the Nordic and Baltic countries have been dedicating a lot of attention to the Eastern Partnership countries, which are seeking an increasingly close relationship with the EU. We encourage them to have no doubts about their chosen path and to take advantage of all the opportunities offered to them. At the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November, we hope to sign the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and to initial analogous agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, which will help to promote rapprochement between these countries and the EU.”
Perhaps Visby is really where the true Eastern Partnership of commerce and cooperation really started. pic.twitter.com/AmHdGlrBxs
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) September 2, 2013
In light of recent events, namely the trade war between Russia and Ukraine, which has been perceived as a means of pressuring Ukraine away from EU integration, the Foreign Ministers emphasised that any economic threat or political pressure directed against Eastern partners because of their engagement with the EU was unacceptable, saying that people ‘have the right to choose themselves what is best for their future’.
“It is important that the Nordic and Baltic countries, members and non-members of the EU, support the European integration aspirations of our Eastern partners and the success of the European project,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linkevicius, stressed.
Meanwhile, the Baltic take on the Syria crisis is featuring heavily in current affairs news. While the Baltic States were gathered at the White House to discuss their NATO contributions, a Russian political analyst came under fire for his suggestion that Russia should invade the Baltic countries if NATO intervenes in Syria. In relation to this the Ministers gathere in Visby also discussed the situation in Syria and strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons, and stressed that the international community must respond appropriately:
“All the permanent members of the UNSC are parties to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. The Convention prohibits the use of chemical weapons. The Convention and membership in Security Council obliges the members to take an exclusive responsibility for this,” Linkevičius said.
In addition, the Ministers drew attention to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) note that failure to respond will send a wrong signal to the offenders and will affect the credibility of the UN. The meeting between the Ministers comes along with questions about the future of the Eastern Partnership, with the surprise announcement yesterday that Armenia has chosen to join the Eurasian Union over the EU.
— Transitions Online (@TransitionsMag) September 4, 2013
In related news, the Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt met with President Obama on 4 September, in a meeting marking the 375th anniversary since the establishment of the first Swedish settlement “New Sweden” in the United States, as well as marking 230 years since the first free trade agreement between the two countries was signed. Read the full statement from Obama and Reinfeldt here.
Later this week Vlnius, Lithuania, will host a two-day meeting of EU defence ministers.